Lea: Today Maine Crime Writers is welcoming author Karen MacInerney, whose popular Grey Whale Inn mystery series is set — where else? — in Maine. Karen, first, I have to ask you the obvious question. Since you live in Texas, far from the Pine Tree State, why did you choose to set your series in Maine?
Karen: Wishful thinking? Honestly, though, I grew up in the Northeast, so I feel a connection to that part of the country.
Lea: Do you come to Maine to do research for your books?
Karen: I try to make it up every summer, strictly for research purposes, of course. (cough, cough) Plus, I need my popover and wild blueberry fix. And my ocean and rocks and lobster fix. Not to mention a reprieve from Texas summers.
Lea: Besides writing and vacationing (oops) I mean researching – in Maine – tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started writing mysteries? Why mysteries rather than another genre?
Karen: I spent many afternoons as a kid curled up under the covers eating Callard and Bowser butterscotch while reading Nancy Drew books (followed by all the Miss Marples,) and the comforting worlds of cozy mysteries have always been a favorite retreat for me. For years I wanted to write, but never seemed to get past the first few pages before my ideas fizzled. About ten years ago I finally decided I wasn’t getting any younger and that I might as well write a book. Mysteries seemed a natural place to start. I liked and understood the genre. I’d read hundreds of them, and I loved the fact that the books had a natural structure: find a dead body and then track down the murderer.
The problem was, I couldn’t decide where to set my mystery – until my parents came back raving about an inn they’d visited in Northern California. A few weeks later, some friends invited us to visit them on Little Cranberry Island in Maine and I fell in love with the place immediately. It reminded me of my grandparents’ summer home on Pool’s Island in Newfoundland, where many of my most cherished memories were made.
Fortunately, my main character, innkeeper Natalie Barnes, took no time at all to step onto the stage. I loved that she was a defender of the natural world, a whiz in the kitchen, and, above all, a woman willing to take risks and make sacrifices to pursue her dream. Many of the islanders that formed the community were loosely based on people I recalled from my summers in Newfoundland, and they quickly formed that close, almost family-like community that I remembered from my childhood. (Many of the surnames in the book are from my family or other families on Pool’s Island. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one entranced by the idea of an inn on a gorgeous Maine Island, and I’ve been escaping to my fictional world ever since.
Lea: Since you write two series … I have to ask: what is your writing schedule. Do you write every day? Do you ever have time to clear your house and have dinner with your family?
Karen: In theory, I like to write 1,000 words a day, five days a week, and I still think that’s the best way to approach it. As for tidying and cooking, sadly, the state of my house is inversely proportional to the state of my writing.
Lea: And what is your most recent book?
Karen: My most recent book is Brush With Death, the firth Grey Whale Inn Mystery, which is set on Cranberry Island right near the holidays, which is one of my favorite times of the year. Eggnog bread, candy-cane sandwich cookies, and dead bodies … what could be jollier?
Lea: And your next project?
Karen: I have several “next” projects, but the one that’s closest to completion is the first of the Dewberry Farm mysteries, set in Buttercup, Texas. It’s fun writing about a wayward cow named Blossom, but nicknamed “Harriet Houdini” – she’s always escaping to eat the geraniums out of the courthouse planters. I’m also enjoying weaving in the Czech and German heritage of the locals – and some of the preserving and pie-making that my main characters get to do (not to mention mystery-solving.) The first book in the series, Killer Jam, is scheduled for release later this year.
Lea: And if readers would like to find out more about you and your books, do you have a website? A Facebook page?
Karen: I’m on Facebook far too much and have a lot of fun there. Please feel to look me up at www.facebook.com/karenmacinerney. My website, www.karenmacinerney.com is being redesigned and is a little behind the times at the moment, but that should change very shortly.
Lea: Thank you, Karen! I appreciate the time you took to share with our readers – and best of luck to you! May there be many (fictional) murders in your future!